Sir Handel is a narrow-gauge saddle tank engine. He is named after the Skarloey Railway's first owner, Sir Handel Brown I. However, he was previously named Falcon after the works where he was built. Sir Handel can behave badly and his plans to get out of work usually backfire on him.
The Railway Series
Back when Falcon was new to the line, the Manager gave him the job of pulling a train along the Mountain Road to learn the line better. Falcon was delighted, but was cross to find out that Duke would be supervising. When the time came for him to pull the train, Falcon insisted that he go in front of Duke, and ignored his advice on paying attention to the track. As the train cleared the second tunnel, Falcon derailed and hung dangerously over the edge of the cliff. After being refilled with water, Duke managed to pull Falcon to safety. When the train stopped at the top station, Falcon apologized to Duke for his rudeness.
Falcon and Stuart both continued being cheeky to Duke, but after they were told the story of Stanley, they became "unusually good for several days", and worked happily with Duke for many years. Unfortunately, the line was closed, and people came to buy the engines. Falcon and Stuart were both purchased by the Sodor Aluminium Company, and left the Mid Sodor Railway to work there. (RWS; Duke the Lost Engine)
At the Aluminium Works, Falcon helped on the extension at the company, until he was no longer needed and was sheeted up along with Peter Sam. In 1952, both engines were bought by the Skarloey Railway for only £50, and they were sent to work there. When Sir Handel was sent to the line, he was painted red and renamed Sir Handel.
When Sir Handel arrived on the Skarloey Railway, he was incredibly rude and troublesome, insulting Skarloey when he first met him and grumbling about the size of the engine sheds. He became even more irritated when he had to pull a passenger train, and was disgusted by the small size of Agnes, Ruth, Lucy, Jemima and Beatrice. The coaches became infuriated when Sir Handel insulted him, and held him back as he was making his way up an inclined part of the line. Sir Handel soon managed to get up the hill, but only after sand was spread along the track.
After being scolded by the Thin Controller, Sir Handel behaved well for several days. However, when he was required to take some trucks from the quarry, Sir Handel refused to go and deliberately derailed. As punishment for his bad behaviour, Sir Handel was put away in the shed, while Peter Sam did his jobs.
Sir Handel eventually came out of the shed when Peter Sam needed repairs, and tried to be on his best behaviour with the coaches. Unfortunately, when Sir Handel stopped suddenly when some sheep strayed onto the line, the coaches assumed that he had bumped them on purpose and bumped him off the line, damaging him. After Skarloey took the train and was sent to the Works to be overhauled after being damaged, Sir Handel gained a newfound respect for him and treated the coaches with respect, who eventually grew to trust him. (RWS; Four Little Engines)
However, while Skarloey was away, Sir Handel began to complain about the extra work he had to do, even after he was fitted with buffers and when Rusty came to the line. After a suggestion by Gordon, Sir Handel pretended to be ill so that he could stay in the shed, but this backfired when the slate trucks on the incline mistook Peter Sam for him and crashed into him. As punishment for landing Peter Sam in such a predicament and for faking his illness, the Thin Controller made Sir Handel do Peter Sam's work as well as his own.
When a group of producers from the BBC came to the line and inspected everything, Sir Handel and Peter Sam both feared that the railway was being closed and the engines were being sold off. However, when he found out that the producers were filming a television documentary about the railway, Sir Handel was not impressed and tried to pretend he was ill so that he could not be a part of the documentary, but after the Thin Controller jokingly threatened to have him taken apart for the producers to film, rendering him speechless. (RWS; The Little Old Engine)
Sir Handel found himself slipping between the rails, so in order to cure the problem, he was fitted with new trailing wheels with broader tyres. The other engines teased Sir Handel about his new wheels, but he believed they were only jealous and boasted about them. Skarloey then told Sir Handel about George, a grumpy steamroller working along the line. Sir Handel confronted George when he met him at the line running parallel to the road, and the two argued until George ran into his train. George was eventually sent away after work on the road was complete, but Sir Handel believed he had made George go away and bragged about it, until some boys teased him about it. (RWS; Gallant Old Engine)
Sir Handel began experiencing trouble with the coaches again, and grumbled about this to the other engines. After being told by Rheneas to be lucky that he did not work on a mountain railway, Sir Handel believed so such thing existed and argued with the engines until Donald brought Culdee to the shed, who confirmed that mountain railways were, indeed, real. After Culdee told the narrow gauge engines about Godred, Sir Handel and Duncan were both left speechless in shock by the story; they were never told by Skarloey and Rheneas, however, that the story was made-up. (RWS; Mountain Engines)
When Duke was rediscovered and brought to the Skarloey Railway, Sir Handel and Peter Sam both greeted him, glad to see that he had finally returned to keep them in order. (RWS; Duke the Lost Engine)
Sometime later, Sir Handel was chosen to visit the Talyllyn Railway, much to his delight. However, until Duke was restored and returned to working service, Sir Handel had to stay on the Skarloey Railway until he was mended. As he was picking up passengers at Rheneas station, Sir Handel became too impatient waiting for the guard and left the station before he could board the train. Fortunately, a passenger pressed Beatrice's emergency buzzer, and Sir Handel realized his mistake.
During his visit to the Talyllyn Railway, Sir Handel had many adventures on the line. He saw the Royal Family visit the railway, and though he was not able to pull their train, he did manage to pull a special wedding train. On another occasion, Sir Handel had to pull a passenger train during a rainy day, when he ran into a fallen tree on the line, which hit him in the face. Although Sir Handel's left eye was not badly hurt, but his crew made such a big fuss about it that they bandaged his eye up with an eyepatch. Sir Handel later told the other Skarloey Railway engines about his adventures when he returned to the line. (RWS; Great Little Engines)
When Peter Sam returned to the railway after visiting the Talyllyn Railway too, Sir Handel became jealous of this, and when he believed that Peter Sam was grinning at him, he became so infuriated that he deliberately knocked his firebars loose. Though he was initially happy at not having any work to do, Sir Handel soon became concerned when nobody came to see him. When the Thin Controller came to see him, Sir Handel apologized and confessed to his mistake. The Thin Controller thanked Sir Handel for owning up and "arranged" for his firebars to arrive, neglecting to inform him that they had only just arrived.
During the summer period, Sir Handel worked in the stone quarry, and significantly matured during his time there. Upon returning to the Transfer Yards, Mr. Percival sent him to work. Sir Handel was glad to do his regular work again, but found that he had trouble getting up hills, and would shake violently if he did. Sir Handel had the other engines push him up the hill so that he could make his deliveries, but when he was given the job of taking Mr. Percival and his wife to Culdee Fell, there were no engines to help him and Mr. Percival found out about his problem. Mr. Percival called up an engineer to fix Sir Handel, and he cured his bumping issues. (TVS; A Smooth Ride)
When Mr. Percival was having a meeting with the Fat Controller, Sir Handel was put in charge of overseeing an important special and telling the other engines what to do. However, Sir Handel neglected to inform the other engines about their jobs, nearly causing the special to become late. Sir Handel quickly realized his mistake, and managed to correct his errors and finish the special in time. (TVS; Sir Handel in Charge)
After Luke arrived on Sodor and told the narrow gauge engines what he had done, Sir Handel and the other engines allowed him to stay in the Blue Mountain Quarry, letting him do his work while he kept to the shadows. Sir Handel began working at the Blue Mountain Quarry regularly, alongside Skarloey, Rheneas, Peter Sam and Rusty.
When Thomas came to the Blue Mountain Quarry to do Paxton's work while he was being repaired, he spotted Luke running away and questioned Sir Handel about him. However, Sir Handel sheepishly denied knowing anything about Luke, suggesting that he had probably seen a runaway truck. When at last Thomas finally did see Luke up-close, the narrow gauge engines told him about Luke, but refused to tell him what he had done.
After Thomas came back to the quarry to tell the engines what he knew about Luke's past, Sir Handel and the other engines believed he had told Victor about Luke and had broken his promise. Sir Handel and the narrow gauge engines retreated to the upper terraces of the quarry, while Thomas tried desperately to tell them what he had actually done. Sir Handel and the other engines eventually found out what Thomas had meant when Victor came to the quarry to see Luke. (TVS; Blue Mountain Mystery)
Sir Handel is based on the Talyllyn Railway's Sir Haydn, named after Sir Henry Haydn Jones former owner of the Talyllyn Railway. This locomotive worked on the nearby Corris Railway until the closure of that line in 1948. In 1951, it was purchased by the Talyllyn Railway, along with the other surviving Corris locomotive, who became Edward Thomas. The Corris Railway is currently building a new locomotive to the same design.
In the 1980s, the Talyllyn Railway repainted Sir Haydn to represent Sir Handel. Christopher Awdry wrote this into the 1985 book Great Little Engines, explaining that Sir Handel was visiting the line to help out. An incident in which Sir Haydn ran into a tree branch and was given a bandage and eyepatch was turned into a story in the book, with almost no alteration from the real event.
In the Railway Series, while working for the Mid Sodor Railway, Sir Handel was originally painted blue with black and gold lining. He carried a two brass nameplates with black lettering on both sides of his tanks. When he was brought by Skarloey Railway, he was repainted in the Skarloey Railway's red livery and blue-and-yellow lining. His was name painted in gold lettering on his boiler.
In the television series, Sir Handel was painted dark blue with red and yellow lining. In edition, his nameplates were painted red with gold lining and lettering. In the tenth season, he was given a darker blue livery. In the sixteenth season, his blue livery became a more vibrant shade than it was in the tenth season.
In the Railway Series, Sir Handel along with Peter Sam did not have buffers when they first arrived on the Skarloey Railway until The Little Old Engine. Originally, Sir Handel's coal bunker was embedded in the interior of his cab. In New Little Engine, the bunker was extended outside of his cab.
In the television series, Sir Handel has been through many changes through the series. In the tenth season, his large scale model used in the tenth season lacked a whistle, yet he was still heard whistling on many occasions. He his trailing wheels and buffers were painted black, whereas it was originally painted silver. In the sixteenth season, Sir Handel's was given grey buffers and trailing wheels, a visible whistle, sanding gear, more rivets on his bufferbeam and cab, and black siderod guards. In edition, his cutout windows gained brass frames and contained glass and handrails across his saddle tank resembling more like his basis. In the eighteenth season, he was given permanent a lamp and lamp irons.